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Rediff.com  » Sports » Football Briefs: Fiorentina honour Astori with win over Benevento

Football Briefs: Fiorentina honour Astori with win over Benevento

Last updated on: March 12, 2018 10:18 IST

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Davide Astori

IMAGE: Fiorentina fans with a banner of former player Davide Astori before the match. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

Defender Vitor Hugo's thumping header gave Fiorentina a 1-0 win over Benevento in an emotional Serie A encounter at the Artemio Franchi stadium in Florence, the home side's first game since the sudden death of their captain Davide Astori a week ago.

 

The funeral for Astori, who was said by authorities in Udine to have died of a cardiac arrest ahead of last Sunday's scheduled game against Udinese, was held in the city on Thursday amid a huge outpouring of grief from fans, players and coaches.

Before kickoff, the players warmed up in shirts bearing the 31-year-old's number 13, and the teams and officials gathered in the centre circle for a minute's silence which was only broken by the whirr of photographers' cameras.

Davide Astori

IMAGE: Fiorentina fans display in memory of former player Davide Astori. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

As tears flowed down the cheeks of fans in the stands, balloons in violet and white were released into the air, and in the 13th minute the ball was put out of play as Fiorentina fans raised flags and engaged in a minute of applause.

Brazilian Hugo celebrated the 25th-minute goal, his first for Fiorentina, by holding up a t-shirt bearing an image of fellow defender Astori before standing in front of it and saluting.

Fiorentina could have added a second in stoppage time at the end of the second half as Milan Badelj hammered a shot from distance off the post, and Marco Benassi somehow blazed the rebound over the bar.

Despite some good chances, Benevento struggled again in front of goal and the result leaves them rooted to the bottom of the table with just 10 points from their 27 games, 11 behind Crotone in 19th spot.

The win moves Fiorentina up into ninth on 38 points ahead of the rest of Sunday's games, which includes the clash between leaders Napoli and fourth-placed Inter Milan at the San Siro in the late kickoff.

Dybala double sends Juventus top of Serie A

Paulo Dybala scored in each half to give Juventus a 2-0 home win over Udinese and put them top of Serie A on Sunday as Napoli slipped to second following a 0-0 draw at Inter Milan.

Juventus, who are chasing a seventh successive league title, have 71 points from 27 games, with Napoli on 70 from 28 after a dour stalemate with Inter at the San Siro.

Dybala curled home a superb free kick from the edge of the area in the 20th minute to put Juventus ahead, and he was pulled down for a penalty later in the first half only for fellow Argentinian Gonzalo Higuain to miss the spot kick.

Dybala added his second four minutes after halftime, Higuain expertly holding up the ball before playing it into the path of the 24-year-old, who slotted it home right-footed.

Inter defender Milan Skriniar missed the game's best chance in the late fixture as he headed against the post shortly after the break, with Napoli striker Lorenzo Insigne twice coming close in the latter stages.

Lazio's Ciro Immobile scored both goals, including a superb backheel deep into stoppage time, to give his side a share of the spoils as they drew 2-2 away to Cagliari.

The brace puts Serie A top scorer Immobile on 24 goals from 24 games this season, six ahead of Inter's Mauro Icardi who has 18 in 22.

Having started the day second from bottom, Crotone hammered Sampdoria 4-1 at home to climb out of the relegation zone, with Marcello Trotta scoring twice and missing a penalty in an eventful outing for the home side.

Newcomers SPAL slipped into the bottom three following a 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers Sassuolo while Dutch midfielder Marten de Roon netted the winner seven minutes from time to give Atalanta a 1-0 victory at Bologna.

Sixth-placed AC Milan grabbed a last-gasp 1-0 win at Genoa after Portuguese substitute Andre Silva headed home Suso's stoppage-time cross.

Suarez, Coutinho make up for missing Messi

Ousman Dembele

IMAGE: Ousman Dembele celebrates after setting up Philippe Coutinho's sumptuous second goal. Photograph: FC Barcelona/Twitter

Barcelona overcame the absence of Lionel Messi to win 2-0 at basement club Malaga on Saturday as goals from Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho sent the Catalans 11 points clear at the top of La Liga while Real Madrid left it late to win 2-1 at Eibar.

Messi missed a league game for the first time this season to attend the birth of his third son Ciro, but Barca barely needed their talisman against free-falling Malaga, who had striker Samu Garcia sent off after half an hour for a studs- up challenge on Jordi Alba.

Suarez headed home a looping cross from Alba to give Barca the lead in the 15th minute and his former Liverpool team mate Coutinho struck the second in the 28th with a backheel from close range after an impressive dribble from Ousmane Dembele.

Malaga were the last team to beat Barcelona in the league, derailing their title bid with a 2-0 win last April and they created two chances in the first half but could not test visiting goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Messi will return when Barca host Chelsea in a Champions League last-16 second leg game on Wednesday but captain Andres Iniesta is fighting to return from a hamstring injury.

"Leo is the best player in the world and we always need him," Coutinho told reporters.

"We congratulate him and we are looking forward to having him back in the next game.

"We came here expecting a difficult night but we managed to score early and with an extra man we were able to control the game."

Barca are unbeaten in the league and lead the standings with 72 points, 11 clear of Atletico Madrid who host Celta Vigo on Sunday. Real are third on 57 after seeing off dogged Eibar with two strikes from Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ten-man Celtic beat Rangers in thrilling Old Firm derby

Celtic

IMAGE:  Celtic’s Scott Brown celebrates after the match. Photograph: Russell Cheyne/Reuters

Celtic twice came from behind and played the last half-hour with 10 men to beat Rangers 3-2 in a pulsating Glasgow derby at Ibrox and increase their lead at the top of the Scottish Premiership.

Brendan Rodgers' side moved nine points clear with a game in hand. Their fierce rivals are in second place. Rangers have now failed to beat Celtic in nine meetings.

They appeared well on their way to ending that run after taking a third-minute lead through Josh Windass, and then retaking it through Daniel Candeias after Tom Rogic equalised.

They were then left facing 10 men when Jozo Simunovic was sent off for a stray elbow on 57 minutes after Moussa Dembele had levelled just before halftime.

But Celtic made light of his dismissal and grabbed a winner through a 69th-minute piece of individual excellence from Frenchman Odsonne Edouard two minutes after coming on as substitute.

Even then there was more drama, with Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos somehow missing from two yards out on 88 minutes.

"It was a brilliant, brilliant win," said Rodgers, who is now unbeaten in nine Old Firm derbies since arriving in 2016.

"It was an immense performance considering we went behind early. It was an incredible football match to be involved in. We were the better footballing side."

The game had been billed as an opportunity for Rangers, buoyed by a fine run of victories, to prove they were capable of preventing Celtic securing their seventh successive title.

But they failed to match the visitors' composure, with Rangers manager Graeme Murty admitting his side came up short.

"We were punished for not doing the basics very well," he said. "We did not show enough quality or composure or tempo with the ball. At the top level there are fine margins. You have to be clinical. They managed it, we didn't."

PSG thrash struggling Metz after European exit

Paris St Germain got back to business in Ligue 1 after being knocked out of the Champions League by Real Madrid in midweek, hammering basement club Metz 5-0 at home and stretching their lead at the top of the standings back to 14 points.

Belgium defender Thomas Meunier struck the first goal in the fifth minute, while 20-year-old midfielder Christopher Nkunku scored twice in quick succession to make it three goals in two league starts this season.

France forward Kylian Mbappe hit PSG's fourth in first half stoppage time, while captain Thiago Silva completed the rout with a towering header from a corner in the 82nd minute.

PSG coach Unai Emery was booed when his name was read out before kickoff as the home supporters aired their grievances at a second consecutive last 16 Champions League elimination under the Spaniard. They still packed the Parc des Princes for the visit of rock bottom Metz.

Top scorer Edinson Cavani was suspended for the game and Emery made five changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Real Madrid, giving French youngster Nkunku a second consecutive league start this campaign after he scored in last week's 2-0 win at Troyes.

Nkunku snuck into the box and slammed the ball into the net with his left foot in the 20th minute then struck again in the 28th with his other foot, placing the ball into the far corner. He was denied a hat-trick goal before the interval for offside.

PSG lead the standings on 77 points after 29 games, 14 clear of nearest challengers and champions AS Monaco, who won 3-1 at Strasbourg on Friday. Metz are bottom with 20 points, nine adrift of safety.

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